Wit & Wisdom

The Stylings of Dr. Saxton Pope

Saxton Pope wrote beautifully, expressing his profound and often poetic thoughts.

He often wrote of Ishi and Ishi’s sayings.

Sometimes he extolled the graces of bow and arrow

Often he regaled his readers with tales of his days afield

Sometimes he wrote of the beauty of the woods and fields – north American and African.

Often he rejoiced in manliness, vigor – and encouraged others to follow him in archery.

Some of his very best thoughts were expressions of his philosophy of life….


He looked upon us as sophisticated children — smart, but not wise.  We knew many things and much that is false.  He knew nature, which is always true.  His were the qualities of character that last forever.  He was essentially kind; he had courage and self-restraint, and though all had been taken from him, there was no bitterness in his heart.  His soul was that of a child, his mind that of a philosopher.

Hunting with Ishi was pure joy.  Bow in hand, he seemed to be transformed into a being light as air and as silent as falling snow.    Time meant nothing to him; he simply stayed until he got his game.

He loved his bow as he did no other of his possessions.  It was his constant companion in life and he took it with him on his last long journey.

He has gone and he hunts with his people.  We stay, and he has left us the heritage of the bow.

With him there was no word for good-by.  He said: “You stay, I go.”

GRACES of the BOW and ARROW.

There is no such thing as a perfect piece of yew, nor is there a perfect bow; at least, I have never seen it.  But there is a bow in every yew tree if we but know how to get it out.  That is the mystery of bowmaking.  It takes an artist, not an artisan.

Before one ever fells a tree, he should weigh the moral right to do so.  But yew trees are a gift from the gods, and grown only for bows.  If you are sure you see a good bow in a tree, cut it.  Having felled it and marked with our eye the best stave, cut it again.

As he makes his shaft, he wonders what fate will befall it.   How often I have picked up a shaft and marked it, saying, “With this I’ll kill a bear.” And with some I’ve done it, too!

If, indeed, the shaft can not be found, then give it up with good grace, remembering that after all it is pleasant work to make one.  Dedicate it to the cause of archery with the hope that in future days someone may pick it up and, pricking his finger on the barb, become inoculated with the romance of archery.

The flight of the arrow is symbolic of life itself.  It springs from the bow with high aim, flies toward the blue heaven above, and seems to have immortal power.  The song of its life is sweet to the ear.  The rush of its upward arc is a promise of perpetual progress.  With perfect grace it sweeps onward, though less aspiring.  Then fluttering imperceptibly, it points downward and with ever-increasing speed, approaches the earth, where, with a deep sigh, it sinks in the soil, quivers with spent energy, and capitulates to the inevitable.

The shaft should fly from the bowstring like a bird, without quiver or flutter.  All depends on a sharp resilient release.

It looks so easy, but really is so difficult to hit the mark.  But do not be cast down, keep eternally at practice, and ultimately you will be rewarded.

Other things being equal, it is the man who shoots with his heart in his bow that hits the mark.


And after all, there lies the soul of the sport.  The fragrance of the earth, the deep purple valleys, the wooded mountain slopes, the clean sweet wind, the mysterious murmur of the tree tops, all call the hunter forth.

Deer are the most beautiful animals of the woods.  Their grace, poise, agility, and alertness make them a lovely and inspiring sight.  To see them feed undisturbed is wonderful; such mincing steps, such dainty nibbling is a lesson in culture.  With wide, lustrous eyes, mobile ears ever listening, with moist, sensitive nostrils testing every vagrant odor in the air, they are the embodiment of hypersensitive self-preservation.

We who have hunted thus, trod the forest trails, climbed the lofty peaks, breathed the magic air, and viewed the endless roll of mountain ridges, blue in the distance, have been blessed by the gods.

By the glow of the campfire we broil savory loin steaks, and when done eating, we sit in the gloaming and watch the stars come out.  Great Orion shines in all his glory, and the Hunters’ Moon rises golden and full through the skies.

Drowsy with happiness, we nestle down in our sleeping bags, resting on a bed of fragrant boughs, and dream of the eternal chase.

Saving our strength, we arrived quietly on the upper ridges and waited for dawn.  Way down below us in the canyon we could smell the faint incense of our camp-fire.  The morning breeze was just beginning to breathe in the trees.  The birds awoke with little whispered confidences, small twitterings and chirps.  A faint lavender tint melted the stars in the eastern sky.  Shadows crept beneath the trees, and we knew it was time to start.

Altogether, bringing bears to bay is among the most thrilling experiences of life.  It is a primitive sport and as such it stirs up in the human breast the primordial emotions of men.  The sense of danger, the bodily exhaustion, the ancestral blood lust, the harkening bay of the hounds, the awe of deep-shadowed forests, and the return to an almost hand-to-claw contest with the beast, all upon a latent manhood that is fast disappearing in the process of civilization.

I hope there always will be bears to hunt and youthful adventurers to chase them.

It seems a very proper thing that the service of the dogs should always be recognized promptly, that they be given their share of the spoils and that they be praised for their courage and fidelity.  This makes them better hunters.  Stupid men who drive off their dogs from the quarry, defer their rewards, and grudge them praise, kill the spirit of the chase within them and spoil them for work.

Hounds have the finest hunting spirit of any animal.  The team work of the wolf and their intelligent use of strategy is one of the most striking evidences of community interests in animal life.


Here we have a weapon of beauty and romance.  He who shoots with a bow, puts his life’s energy into it.  The force behind the flying shaft must be placed there by the archer.     By the most adroit cleverness, he must approach within striking distance, and when he speeds his low whistling shaft and strikes his game, he has won by the strength of arm and nerve.  It is a noble sport.

The real archer when he goes afield enters a land of subtle delight.  The dew glistens on the leaves, the thrush sings in the bush, the soft wind blows, and all nature welcomes him as she has the hunter since the world began.  With his bow in his hand, his arrows softly rustling in the quiver, a horn at his back, and a hound at his heels, what more can a man want in life?

Infinite patience and practice are needed to make a hunter.  He must earn his right to take life by the painful effort of constant shooting.

Why men should kill deer is a moot question, but it is the habit of the brute.  For so many hundreds of years have we been at it, that we can hardly be expected to reform immediately.  Undoubtedly, it is a sign of undeveloped ethnic consciousness.  We are depraved animals.

I must admit that there are quite a number of things men do that mark them as far below the angels, but in a way I am glad of it.  The thrill and glow of nature is strong within us.  The great primitive outer world is still unconquered, and there are impulses within the breast of man not yet measured, curbed and devitalized, which are the essential motives of life.  Therefore, without wantonness, and without cruelty, we shall hunt as long as the arm has strength, the eye glistens, and the heart throbs.

Lead on!

In fact, certain sentimental devotees of nature foster the sentiment that wild animals need naught but kindness and loving thoughts to become the bosom friend of man.  Such sophists would find that they had made a fatal mistake it they could carry out their theories.  The old feud between man and beast still exists and will exist until all wild life is exterminated or is semi-domesticated in game preserves and refuges.

Man has made his conquest of the world directly through his weapons of the chase. With the bow and the spear, he has not only held his own against the stronger beasts of the forest and plains, but he has put them to rout and usurped the earth.

There is in the heart of every man the impulse of the chase. It is, of course, developed in some natures more intensely than in others….    We cannot expect, therefore, that every man should have the same quantitative urge, but the hunting spirit is normal and laudable, and so long as there is game to be taken so long will the hunter follow the quest.

If we forget that life itself is a cruel contest, especially in the wilds, then we are shocked and pained by the hunters’ story. We should avoid details…..        It is the fair contest, the sporting chance, the thrill of the chase and the conflict of emotion that give sanction to taking animal life.

If we cannot feel this, we should never go hunting, nor read tales of it.

If a man is only part hunter and quite a large part nature lover, he gets more out of his expedition than what falls to his bag. This is particularly necessary if he be an archer, because his bag will be small, though his enjoyment may be large. I must admit that the bow is more a companion in woodland pleasure than an engine of destruction; that’s one reason why we like it.

Soon it will be time to unstring my bow, lower the quiver of arrows to the ground and wander back to camp in the afterglow. I have not slain a beast today—and yet I am content, more than that, for I have captured a hundred beautiful memory pictures of beast and bird and jungle life and shall carry them with me forever.

But we are not here teaching sportsmanship, nor preaching the return to archaic methods of the chase. We are here in an adventure of pure romanticism. We admit we are quixotic.

For with us, so much of the hunt is seeing the life about us, feeling the cool morning breeze; watching the play of color in the eastern skies and the deepening shadows beneath the jungle palms. It is all part of the adventure and we often spare the game as well and pass it with a stroke of the eye instead of an arrow.

This world being filled with all sorts and conditions of people, it is not strange that some will think we should have stayed at home and attended to our business. Others will hold that all sport is folly and that we should have been at the spiritual labor of improving our souls, singing praises to the Lord and doing works of charity; some there are that hold all men guilty of crime, who take animal life, and consequently we are arch fiends to venture thus into the highways and byways seeking what we might slay. But thank goodness! the great majority of men, those who wear pants and use a razor, they know why we went hunting and envy us our lot.

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